History, energy balancing act creates New Fork Park in Sublette CountyWritten by Joy Ufford
Two historical trails in Sublette County are the focus of modern-day determination to preserve their pasts and continue their futures.
Both rely on local rivers – the Upper Green River for the Green River Drift, to guide more than a century’s worth of cattle to summer pastures, and the New Fork River, the Lander Road’s welcome oasis and treacherous obstacle where people crossed to travel westward more than 150 years ago on the new portion of the California Trail.
On June 20 at the Sommers Ranch and Homestead, the Green River Drift was dedicated as the National Register of Historic Places’ first-ever ranching-related Traditional Cultural Property (TCP). The nomination process involved local, state and federal agencies and organizations along with many volunteers for what has been called a “ground-breaking” result.
On June 21 came the grand opening of the Lander Trail New Fork River Crossing Historical Park, an even more complex collaboration springing from the energy industry’s need to mitigate new development in Sublette County.
The park’s ribbon-cutting ceremony brought about 150 people and project partners, now at 29 with the latest, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), supporting public fishing access to the New Fork.
In its 100 acres, the New Fork River Crossing Park includes the riverbank, channels and most of the island that was a stopover for thousands heading west. They were traveling the new Lander Wagon Road, or the Lander Road or Trail, that cut up to seven dangerous days of desert travel and ferry crossings from the Oregon Trail. It was the first federally-funded road west of the Mississippi.
Engineer Frederick Lander designed the 256-mile road from South Pass to Fort Hall, Idaho. It was built in 1858 and served the massive migrations of people and livestock west.
As a halfway point in the six-month journey to Oregon or California, in peak summer months 200 to 300 people camped nightly at this often dangerous river crossing, according to Clint Gilchrist of the Sublette County Historical Preservation Board and the June 21 grand opening master of ceremonies.
“People lost their lives at this river crossing,” Gilchrist said, noting the park’s mission is, “to focus on the daily lives of people who were here.”
The wooded island, since cut in half by a shift in the river’s main channel, is now connected to the new parking lot by a trail, new bridges and boardwalks.
But the island’s prior mid-river location gave those crossing a break. This parcel, part of the Olson family’s 3 Bar H Ranch, was confirmed as the original crossing site with many surveys and records, and it was for sale.
The Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund provided grant moneys for two seasons of initial archeological surveys. The resulting artifacts provide a deeper picture of the site.
The Lander Trail’s historical importance was noted by the Bureau of Land Management Pinedale Field Office (BLM PFO) as a consideration when energy companies began developing the area.
Later, the proposed PacifiCorp/Rocky Mountain Power transmission line planned to cross the trail in two places. Ultra Resources and Shell (SWEPI) also proposed expanded drilling nearby.
With two projects involved, the BLM’s Resource Management Plan would call for two separate mitigation agreements under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
The odd mix of interested parties – local and California-Oregon Trail historians, Sublette and Wyoming officials, power and energy companies and federal agencies – grew into a historic, productive collaboration rather than a divisive conflict.
PFO Archeologist Dave Crowley is credited with steering the mitigation process so that two required historic-preservation agreements dovetailed with one goal – to preserve the New Fork River crossing site.
Crowley explained the BLM has “legal mandates to protect” the Lander Road branch of the California Trail “that passes through the Anticline’s full-field development – one of the most productive gas fields in the nation.”
Often historical protection and mineral extraction create conflicts and are at best a balancing act, he said.
Ultra Resources and SWEPI as energy developers and PacifiCorp with its power transmission proposal, with the BLM and preservationists, considered the “upfront idea” to create one “big ticket item” for both mitigation agreements.
Company mitigation funds then went into the pot to buy the Olson property, priced at about $900,000. PacifiCorp first offered one-third of the cost, with Ultra and Shell agreeing after the Sublette County Historical Society became the sale broker.
The internal aspects took shape as every agency and organization contacted – from Sublette County historians, volunteers and officials to the Wyoming Conservation Corps to the National Park Service’s Intermountain Long-Distance Trails Office and the BLM – jumped in.
Setting new precedent
“It’s pretty precedent-setting,” said Nancy Brown, liaison with the BLM for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. “It’s very unusual to have two projects working together to make this possible – an outstanding public-private collaboration. The spirit of collaboration was already alive when they began the process.”
Brown forecasted the mitigation project as a “national model for excellence.”
Mary Shepherd of the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office said the new park gives visitors a look back in time and preserves that experience “for our children and our grandchildren.”
The National Park Service remains involved in the park’s development, with attractive new signs and interpretative sites along the mile-loop trail.
“This is a forever project,” Gilchrist said before cutting the red ribbon with a giant pair of scissors, admitting sometimes he wondered if the park would actually take shape.
As of June 21, about 300 individuals and 29 organizations are partners, he said, honoring partners with cottonwood plaques made by the Pinedale FFA.
“In every organization, someone stuck their neck out and took a chance on this project,” he said.
Historic visions Green River Drift, New Fork River Crossing Park reach milestonesWritten by Joy Ufford
Humans and herd animals share an instinctive tendency – to move beyond boundaries, whether for land and dreams of riches or away from the desert to greener grass. Both create trails where signs of passage, both more than a century ago and to this day, revealed their potential as modern legacies of Sublette County’s history and heritage.
On June 20-21, two visions converged with celebrations centered on the century-plus old Green River Drift cattle trail, a 58-mile-long stock driveway from the desert to the mountains for summer grazing, and the New Fork River Crossing Historical Park, used by thousands of emigrants heading west on the Lander Road.
Green River Drift
The Green River Drift’s first recorded use was in 1896 by the Upper Green River Cattle Association. Its members gathered their cattle in the spring on dry desert pastures and slowly moved them north.
The route follows the Upper Green River north, with splits and spurs helping cowboys move herds to summer pastures along the eastern Gros Ventre Range.
In fall, cattle “drift” back south with cooler weather. Ranchers and cowboys still work their cattle out along the stock driveway and send them on their way home.
As it goes with humans and herds, this annual migration is well engrained in both species, basically unchanged in the past century, with the exception of snug cow camps, horse trailers and technological tools.
A lengthy process beginning in Sublette County and traveling to Washington, D.C. culminated with the Drift’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places approved in November 2013. June 20 brought its dedication as the nation’s first-ever ranching-related “Traditional Cultural Property,” or TCP.
The dedication coincided with the first day of “turn-out,” allowing visitors to watch the historic cattle move first-hand.
“We’re trailing them up the Drift,” explained rancher Charles Price. “If we really had to push at these cattle we’d never get up there. This is more like a migration than a ‘drive.’ A lot of these old cows know exactly where they’re going, and they’re ready to go there.”
A morning tour took 80 people from the sorting grounds at Trappers Point, near Highway 191 west of Pinedale, north to Cora and on up to Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) along the Drift’s route.
The driveway was protected lately by Sublette officials from development and crosses private, BLM and BTNF easements and highway right-of-ways. Association members have BTNF grazing permits on the Upper Green’s 100,000-acre allotment. Nearby ranchers with allotments “off to the side” use the driveway, as do bikers, hikers, riders, snowmobilers and migrating wildlife.
The Drift’s farthest reaches extend across the mountains to Union Pass, west of Dubois.
“We can go 32 miles and still be on this allotment,” Price said.
Each pasture system has a newer log cabin where riders are based to put out salt blocks, doctor cattle, disperse cattle from riparian areas, fix fence – and one new duty from accompanying grizzlies and wolves frequenting the Upper Green.
“As predators have moved up into this area, there’s a lot more searching for predator kills,” said Price, also on the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission.
Bringing the Green River Drift into its current prominence took a huge collaboration among Sublette ranchers, officials, historians and volunteers, progressing from an idea sparked by Jonita Sommers and the Sublette County Historic Preservation Board (SCHPB) into reality with support from the Upper Green River Cattle Association, Wyoming Stockgrowers Association (WSGA), Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, Sublette County and Wyoming agencies and BLM, Forest Service and National Park Service.
After the tour, 225 people converged at the Sommers Ranch and Homestead, listed in 2009, to be welcomed by owners Representative Albert (HD-22) and his sister Jonita Sommers with a barbecue and an ample supply of mosquito spray.
Speakers explained why the Drift’s acceptance as a TCP is unique and historic.
“This is a living representation of our community’s heritage,” said SCHPB Chair Clint Gilchrist.
He then introduced Wyoming BLM Director Don Simpson.
Wyoming’s ranching traditions, policy recognition of ranching as an important multiple use and the Green River Drift’s status as the oldest continuously used stock driveway were important reasons for the BLM to support the nomination process, Simpson said.
Jonita Sommers told tales about the Drift’s earlier days, saying Harry Steele, now 93, built the Cattle Bridge over the New Fork River at its south end, the Little Colorado Desert, in 1946. That same bridge is used today, mainly by the Murdock family.
Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources Director Milward Simpson and Preservation Officer Mary Hopkins also discussed “the huge effort and a lot of painstaking research” for the nomination.
“It was a labor of love for our office,” Hopkins added.
Jose Castro, BTNF acting supervisor, called the Drift’s tradition “living history that mimics the movements of ancient hunters and wildlife centuries ago.
“I think this will be a classic textbook study for new similar projects in the future,” he said.
Sommers stood in the shade, still dressed in his battered cowboy hat and spurs from the morning’s cattle drive as his sister was honored for her tireless determination.
“This was a groundbreaking nomination,” Gilchrist said. “This was a very difficult thing to do.”
The final speaker, WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna, reminded those present that the Green River Drift represents history that is still alive, basically unchanged for more than a century.
Also important, he said, is looking ahead to the future, especially with changes in the cattle industry.
“We’re celebrating the history – a living-history monument,” Magagna said, “but let’s all dedicate ourselves to the future.”
Next week, learn about another Sublette collaboration that brought about the June 21 ribbon-cutting of the Lander Trail’s New Fork River Crossing Historic Park.
Past, present & future: Wyoming ag leaders look at 2012, 2013Written by Saige Albert
As the year comes to a close, agriculture has seen a number of setbacks and advancements this year, according to Wyoming Stock Growers Executive Vice President Jim Magagna, Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton and Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Bobbie Frank.
“The number one event was the drought in 2012,” says Magagna. “No doubt about that.”
Hamilton agreed, saying that not only were all producers talking about the drought, everyone was concerned with the impacts to their operations, as well as the future of rangelands.
As a positive note for 2012, Magagna mentions, “The wolf delisting, if we can make it stick, is a big topic for 2012.”
The year also brought some short-term victories in litigation related to sage grouse that are important.
For conservation districts, 2012 was an important year.
“The district involvement in the Resource Management Plan process and the Forest Planning process was a big priority for local districts this year,” Frank explains.
She added that involvement in local federal lands planning will continue to be important through 2013, and with a bill coming up in the Legislature to strengthen statutory language for conservation districts expertise, Frank hopes further involvement of districts will be supported.
The bill, said Frank, is very similar to one passed last year giving county commissioners special expertise and is one that the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts strongly supports.
Legislation in 2013
Among other legislative priorities for the 2013 legislative session, Magagna says, “For the Wyoming Stock Growers, our biggest focus is going to be on several pieces of property rights legislation.”
The bills include seismic bonding legislation, as well as a continuation on the wind energy collector system moratorium.
Hamilton notes that Farm Bureau also supports opportunities to protect landowners.
“I’ve also heard some discussion about trespass laws, and certainly we are going to strengthen them where we can to give our members more protection,” adds Hamilton.
An additional bill that is still in draft phases responding to a reversal of long standing law on liability of landowners for injury to trespassers is being pursued by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
“If language adopted in the Restatement of Torts was adopted by Wyoming Courts, it would make landowners liable for injury to trespassers on their land,” Magagna explained. “In a proactive approach, we will promote legislation that would preempt this outcome.”
Frank additionally looked at instream flow legislation as important.
Hamilton marks the potential bill to introduce a statewide beef checkoff as one that Wyoming Farm Bureau members oppose, though he hasn’t seen any legislation yet.
A new year
Looking forward into 2013, Hamilton jokes, “The stock market will hit 15,000, it will rain ever other day in June and the price of cows will go up.”
“In all seriousness, I don’t have any real idea – it depends on a lot of factors,” Hamilton says. “I know everyone is going to be looking at the snow this winter and hoping we don’t have a repeat of the drought.”
Frank and Magagna agreed that drought is on the top of the list of concerns for 2013.
“If this drought doesn’t break, looking at the potential to continue to do conservation work with the industry, as well as potential fire impacts, will be important,” Frank says.
Magagna adds that, if the drought continues across the West, it will likely have a greater impact in its second year.
“Seeing the farm bill through in some form or fashion so we can continue to help producers with drought mitigation and fire rehabilitation will also be important,” comments Frank.
With fire impacts as a top focus, Frank also adds that forest health is a top priority.
“Forest health is going to be big one going forward,” she notes, “and it is time to start getting more aggressive on the subject. Hopefully, more people will be inclined to manage the forests instead letting fires burn.”
As related to the Farm Bill, Frank notes that there are many things that are still unclear, and disagreements on the depth of cuts continue in Congress, but passage of a bill in Congress remains a top priority.
All three also mark sage grouse as having continuing importance.
“I think there is going to be a lot of continued discussion in the ag community about the impact of sage grouse on the various agriculture producers in the state,” Hamilton notes.
“Sage grouse continues to be on the forefront,” Frank adds, “as does the work being done to negate the need for listing.”
Water quality will also continue to be a focus of conservation districts, as the districts move to make progress in getting streams off the 303(d) list.
Of other things coming forward, Hamilton also says, “We may see some interesting things in our state budget.”
“It will be interesting because we aren’t seeing the kind of money coming into the state that we were,” Hamilton continues. “We are going to be looking at efforts to raise fuel taxes and other things.”
On a national scale, Magagna also marks budget issues and the national debt as being top priority.
“We are all going to be affected by what Congress does in several areas, certainly in terms of the deficit and national debt,” he explains. “I think every business and every individual is going to be affected.”
“On a positive note, I think there is every reason to believe that cattle prices are going to remain high or go significantly higher due to strong global demand and reduced herd sizes,” comments Magagna. “It can help people get through tough times if they can get a strong price.”
Centennial celebrations continue as 4-Hers look back at their historyWritten by University of Wyoming Extension
Across Wyoming, 4-H continues to have a widespread impact. However, the history of the organization reaches back to the turn of the century.
4-H was formed as the result of dedicated, forward-looking people interested in youth education.
In 1902, A. B. Graham, an Ohio school superintendent, organized a boys’ and girls’ club with a home project based on corn. This became the first 4-H club.
By 1913, the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture had 125 boys and girls enrolled in 4-H. The initial objective of the clubs was to influence the farm and home practices of their parents.
Extension staff outlined project work.
In 1917, the first full-time boys’ and girls’ 4-H club agent was hired in Sheridan County to work with the 74 rural schools in the county. By 1919, there were 96 clubs across Wyoming with an enrollment of 1,562 members, growing to more than 3,000 youth in the 1930s.
Work was being carried out in eight project areas, including corn, potato, home gardening, canning, poultry, pig, sheep and sewing.
The University of Wyoming 4-H Youth Development Program continues to fulfill its mission, which reads, “4-H empowers youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults.”
County 4-H educators partner with 2,579 adult volunteer leaders to provide opportunities for youth to reach their full potential through UW 4-H.
As 4-H grows, the types of projects change to reflect new youth interests and support programming in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; healthy living; and citizenship.
Today, there are 621 4-H clubs where almost 7,000 youth enroll in more than 50 4-H projects. Projects with the highest number of youth enrolled include shooting sports, swine, horse, photography and sheep.
While the majority of youth enroll in the 4-H club program, many youth also participate in camping, afterschool 4-H programs and school enrichment.
This article was contributed by University of Wyoming Extension.
Wyoming loses three-term SenatorWritten by Christy Martinez
Big Horn – “On energy, on agriculture, on public lands issues, Sen. Wallop was all Wyoming, all the time,” says U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis of the late Senator Malcolm Wallop, who passed away Sept. 14.
As the ranking Republican member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee from 1990 to 1994, Senator Wallop was an outspoken advocate of the multiple economic uses of federal lands and development of domestic energy supplies of coal, oil and natural gas.
Wallop served in the Senate from 1977 to 1995 and had an unusual resume for a western politician. According to Frontiers of Freedom, the organization he founded after his Senate service, he was part of the third generation of a Wyoming pioneer family, he was born in New York City, he graduated from Yale University, and his grandfather served in the British House of Lords.
After his graduation from Yale in 1954, Wallop served in the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant from 1955 to 1957. He worked for a decade as a cattle rancher and small businessman before entering politics in 1969 as a successful candidate for the Wyoming House of Representatives, where he served two terms, followed by a stint in the Wyoming Senate from 1973 to 1976.
In 1974 Wallop sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination but was defeated by Richard R. “Dick” Jones from Park County. In 1976 Wallop unseated three-term Democrat U.S. Senator Gale W. McGee.
In his first term, Wallop authored legislation that established the Congressional Award program to recognize outstanding volunteerism among America’s youth, and in 1977 the Wallop Amendment to the Surface Mining Control Act was hailed by property rights advocates for forcing the federal government to compensate property owners whose ability to mine was undercut by regulation. Three years later, Wallop successfully amended the Clean Water Act to protect states’ interests.
Wallop’s later career was characterized largely by his participation in the foreign policy and trade debates of the late 1980s and early 1990s. From 1990 to ‘94 he was the top Republican member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and in 1992 he was a key force behind passage of the far-reaching Energy Policy Act.
In 1994 Wallop opted out of a race for a fourth term, and Republican Craig Thomas succeeded him. Immediately upon his retirement from the Senate in January 1995, Wallop founded the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, a Virginia-based non-profit group that lobbies for constitutionally limited government and a strong national defense.
“Wyoming owes Sen. Wallop a debt of gratitude for the way he spoke for Wyoming people during the years when the battle cry was, ‘Cattle free by ‘93,’ a slogan used by anti-public lands groups,” continues Lummis.
“Today, Wyoming and America lost an extraordinary man. U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop was a dedicated public servant and a great legislator,” said U.S. Senator John Barrasso on Sept. 14. “He leaves a proud legacy of a Wyoming Senator who solved problems and initiated great solutions. He set a high bar for public service, and all of Wyoming is grateful.”
“Whether he was serving in the Army, the Wyoming Legislature or in the United States Senate, Malcolm always stood for freedom. For decades he worked to strengthen America’s national security and protect states’ rights. His common sense and commitment helped break down Washington’s barriers to American energy development, and our nation continues to benefit from his leadership today.”
“With his brilliance and determination he fiercely defended Wyoming values; advocating for our military, for smaller government and for individual freedoms,” says Wyoming Governor Matt Mead. “Senator Wallop provided leadership for Wyoming and America during his three terms as Senator and every day since. He fought for lower taxes, multiple-use of public lands and developing America’s energy resources.”
“Wyoming was very fortunate to have Malcolm Wallop representing us in the Senate for 18 years,” says U.S. Senator Mike Enzi. “For all of his three terms, he was a powerful and effective presence in Congress that ensured the people of Wyoming were heard and their concerns were addressed.”